To Contest or Not to Contest

I’ve set aside  pressing duties to make room for another contest submission.  Dylan Days Creative Writing Contest out of Hibbing, MN, the home of the famous Bob Dylan, has a great annual contest with cash prizes and publication for winners.  My poem, Devil in the Details, took first place  in 2004.  What fun to read my prize-winning poem at a reception at Zimmy’s in Hibbing.  I’ve submitted every year since then–it’s practical with no submission fee required and an easy online application process.  You can google Dylan Days Creative Writing Contest for details but please note the submission deadline is March 1st so you don’t have much time to enter.

I’m also planning to enter the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.  This one was strongly recommended to me by a writer friend who thinks my writing style matches previous winners.  The submission fee is a hefty $30 but maybe worth the gamble.  I’ll let you know how it goes–but I won’t hold my breath.

A few years back at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, someone asked Brett Anthony Johnston, the Creative Writing Chair at Harvard, about contests.  He suggested contests may be worthwhile if you have something written and there is no submission fee.  He also said that if there is a submission fee (remember the $30 for the Faulkner contest!) a writer is better off using that money for postage to mail out his story to places  looking for poems or short stories, whether anthologies or magazines.

The dilemma with contests is that they take away my limited writing time.  Of course, as you may know from personal experience, writing time is frequently interrupted by an unlimited number of distractions.  At least  submitting to a contest gives  a feeling of accomplishment and the illusion of forwarding my writing career.  I have many orphaned poems and short stories without a home so I do not spend a lot of time writing first drafts for the contests–the bulk of my time comes with figuring out the many intricacies required to submit, shaving down to meet word count restrictions or figuring out the computer format desired.  It’s a lot of work but through the years I’ve won several local contests and they look great on my writing resume.   I won’t mention the many times I’ve lost!


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